The Big Three: a preview of Rangers at Dumbarton

Scott Nicol & Lewis MacLeod courtesy of Ian MacNicol (Getty Images)

This season Rangers Report will run a series of Match Previews entitled, the Big Three, prior to each match.  Rather then write in generalities about teams I rarely see – we will ask people who follow the opponent on a daily basis to provide some insight on their club.  Their task is to identify a Big Three — three aspects of their club that Rangers supporters should keep an eye on.

written by – Jack CrawfordDumbarton’s matchday reporter via the club’s official Twitter account.  He also covers the team for Scotzine’s Fanzone  & for Son’s Supporters Trust

Ever since achieving promotion to the Championship (or First Division as it was then) in 2012, Dumbarton fans haven’t been expecting much.  Our first couple of months in the division has seen loss after loss, only picking up an odd point here and there.  In fact, the first win wasn’t achieved until November  by interim manager Jack Ross after Alan Adamson was sacked at the end of October.

Former Norwich, Hibs, Rangers and Scotland man Ian Murray took over at the end of November, with Sons sitting rock bottom of the Championship.  A remarkable turnaround has seen us stay up with a game to spare and from then on we haven’t looked back.  A fifth placed finish last year was the clubs highest in years, with Murray also guiding the team to a Scottish Cup Quarter Final where we were narrowly knocked out by Aberdeen.

The target this season, and as long as we remain in this division, will be to finish 8th.  As a part-time club (Scotland’s best), managing to compete at this level is a great achievement in itself and consolidating our position here is vital.

We’re coming into this match on the back of a heavy 5-1 defeat from Hearts at the weekend.  The loss was expected, however some of the goals conceded were given away cheaply and as devastating and clinical as Hearts were, the score line could have been lower.

David Van Zanten, courtesy of Ian MacNicol (Getty Images)

Dumbarton:  The Big Three

1.  Summer Signings

Ian Murray  brought in quite a few faces during the summer transfer window on and off the field.  Assistant Manager Jack Ross left to go to Hearts, with Murray bringing in a ex-Hibee in Guillaume Beuzelin to replace him in the dugout.  Mark Spalding is also joining Murray in the dugout this season, joining in a coaching role from Falkirk.

Two experienced players in David Van Zanten, last at St Mirren, and Lee Mair, checking in from Partick Thistle, have came in to shore up the defence.  Van Zanten has been a constant in the Sons back line.  He has had quite the duty to fulfill in replacing Paul McGinn who moved to Dundee at the end of the season.   Mair hasn’t had the game time many would have expected him too.  Since the 4-1 defeat at Ibrox towards the start of the season, he has failed to secure his name in the first eleven, but he only returned from injury recently.

Scott Taggart arrived from Morton, and is the man who is keeping McGinn out of the team. Taggart actually made his debut against Rangers at Ibrox, where he played in a more advanced role of sitting in between the defence and midfield.  His game has already come on massively in the short time he has been with, and is forming a solid partnership with club captain Andy Graham in the centre of defence.

Archie Campbell, who started his career at Rangers, is another who joined from Morton.  Game time has been limited for him, but his pace has made him a handy impact sub.  He’s chipped in with one goal and I imagine a few more will come his way during the course of the season.  Goalkeeper Danny Rogers has come in on loan from Aberdeen.  The young stopper from Ireland has kept five clean sheets already, earning himself a call up for his countries U20 side and already overtaking the total amount of clean sheets kept by Dumbarton last season.

Kieran MacDonald from Hamilton is another loanee.  He can play a variety of positions, mainly on the left hand side and could probably count himself unlucky not to start a game as of yet.  The final signing Dumbarton have made this season, is Chris Kane from St Johnstone.  Kano joined the club in January last season on a six month loan deal, and ended up scoring 10 goals in 20 games.  Many expected him to get a crack at the Premiership with St Johnstone this year, especially with Stevie May leaving.  However, it was decided that it would be best for all parties is Kane came back to The Sons for another six months.  He has already got two goals in three games, the goals coming in the 88th and 90th minutes to snatch a win against Livingston and grab a point at Falkirk.  He has been missing with an injury recently, and is a doubt for this weekend.  However, if he is playing, he’s one that should be watched.  He will run for days and has some pace about him too.  He is effective in the air for a small lad, and doesn’t need more than a sniff of goal to put one in the back of the net.

Dumbarton v. Raith Rovers, courtesy of George McLuskie

2.  The story so far

If the season were to end right now, I think many Sons fans would take it.  We currently occupy 7th place in the Championship with two wins, four draws and four losses from our ten games.

The season began at Starks Park against Raith Rovers.  An opening day 3-1 defeat wasn’t what away fans were hoping for.  Losing 4-0 at home to Queen of South the next week put us under some pressure as we traveled to Ibrox the week after. A 4-1 defeat and a third negative performance raised some small alarm bells.  Not the easiest start to the season, but the fans expected something on the table.

The week after we picked up our points of the season with a 1-0 victory over Livingston. Chris Kane getting the goal late on. This game was the start of a six game unbeaten run.

After the international break, we then entertained Hearts at the Bet Butler in what was sure to be a challenging game against one of the title contenders.  A superb defensive display seen us snatch a point, and Dumbarton are the only side in the Championship to take points from Hearts so far.

Falkirk has been a happy hunting ground for Sons in the past, and that’s where we headed to next.  Kane again with a late goal managed to earn us a deserved point. We then entertained the divisions other two part time teams at home in consecutive weeks, with Alloa being disposed of first in a 3-1 win. Archie Campbell got his first goal for Sons to get us on our way before Jordan Kirkpatrick got his first of the season followed by veteran striker Colin Nish rounding things off.

Cowdenbeath were next to visit, and the hosts were lucky to hold out for a 0-0 draw with some wasteful finishing saving Sons. Two trips to Edinburgh would follow.  First, it was to Leith. Another 0-0 was our third scoreless draw of the season (we only had one last season).  Danny Rogers was the hero of the day, pulling off a string of fine saves, including a penalty, to secure Sons a point.

Last week, we visited league leaders Hearts at Tynecastle.  A 5-1 defeat was a strange one, as even though  Hearts were worthy of the comfortable win, if Sons hadn’t made some poor defensive errors, it could have been less.  Coming into a game against Rangers on the back of a 5-1 defeat isn’t ideal, but we shouldn’t be too disheartened after the loss to Hearts.

Mark Gilhaney, courtesy of Ian MacNicol (Getty Images)

3.  The lineup

Sons could line up formation in a few ways. The most favoured by the support is a basic 4-4-2 with one ball winner and one attacking player in the centre of the pitch.  However, the absence of Chris Turner has meant two attacking players – Scott Agnew and Jordan Kirkpatrick – playing in the midfield, which has sometimes seen us being overrun.  Turner is another who is a doubt for the weekend, so we could be heading into our fifth game in a row with our two most important players – Turner and Kane – missing.

The defence has remained the same for a large amount of the season.  It is fairly solid, but isn’t the quickest.  The two wingers – Mark Gilhaney & Mitch Megginson – are good wingers with Megginson finishing our top scorer last season.  It is fair to say he has failed to recapture that form consisteny this season, though.  He is a match winner though, and on his day could play for most teams in this division.

We have some decent options upfront. Colin Nish will probably start, and if recent performances are to go by Garry Fleming will accompany him.  Nish is good in the air and good at holding the ball up which could be key against Rangers.  Fleming is a similar player to Nish, however he likes to get stuck in and will run about a lot. He can be clinical on his day as well.

You can follow Jack Crawford on Twitter @JackDFC & on matchdays @Dumbartonfc.  You can also read his work for Scotzine’s Fanzone  & Son’s Supporters Trust

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